Cities and towns across Eastern North Carolina are beginning to view their rivers as a source of recreation and revenue, and Greenville is no exception. Today, Lee Jenkins tells us about the Tar River Legacy Plan.
Sleepily creeping through Pitt and Beaufort Counties, the Tar River stretches from Louisville, North Carolina, to the Pamlico Sound. The River was originally named for the tar-laden barges that used it as a bustling shipping lane. Nowadays, there’s not much happening on the seven-mile stretch of the river that flows through Greenville. City planner Lamarco Morrison half-jokingly says some residents and tourists don’t even know Greenville has a river. Morrison hopes the Tar River Legacy Plan will change that.
“Many people aren’t aware that there’s a river until they cross the two bridges we have. The Tar River Legacy Plan will lend us some ideas on ways we can better utilize the river, short-term, mid-term, and long-term.”
Project officials have been drafting the plan alongside ordinary citizens through public meetings since March. Project officials now have approved a master plan, which will be presented to the city and budgeted in September. That meeting will determine how many phases of the plan will be implemented and how funding will be allocated to the project. According to Morrison, the proposed projects range from basic landscaping to establishing residential and recreational centers.
“Some of the less costly projects we could do immediately, within the next one to two years. And then there are larger projects that deal with large scale developments – mix use housing, recreation, parks, things of that nature – that are more long-term, five to ten years.”
Potential amenities include attractions like a riverside BMX park, an extreme sports park for skating and skateboarding, an adventure park featuring a series of suspended platforms, zip lines, and other above-ground activities and obstacles, rural camping platforms for endurance kayakers and other intrepid outdoorsmen to stay the night, and eventually retail outlets and restaurants. Walking paths will be cleared and maintained as well, allowing the truly adventurous to travel from one attraction to another on foot. The project is partly intended to attract residents to the city and keep them there, counteracting the brain drain college towns like Greenville tend to suffer from.
“We have a lot of young professionals that start out at East Carolina and some even go on to work at the hospital, but research has shown that we’re having a hard time retaining these people. And so, we think that a large part of the economic development would be to retain young people, young families, young graduates of East Carolina.”
Morrison expects the project will go beyond giving Greenville homeowners a reason to stick around.
“Certainly we’re looking at a regional draw. We think some of these amenities, like the adventure park, will attract people from different parts of the state and even South Carolina and Virginia.”
The Tar River Legacy plan shares some similarities with Kinston’s 2013 Riverwalk Project, which aims to stimulate economic development by connecting its two recreational centers, the Woodman Community Center and Pearson Park, with an elaborate 2.4 mile stretch of riverside parks and walkways. Morrison says the scope and timeframe of the two projects vary significantly.
“Kinston’s Riverwalk project is, to my understanding, an uptown project. We do look heavily at uptown Greenville and the urban core, but we also look at some of the more rural segments along the river. I think that would be the difference. And we’re also looking at other regional areas. We’re looking at ways that we could enhance places like Falkland, Tarboro, and even down to Washington. We’re looking at ways that we can bring attention to those areas as well.”
Kinston’s project is further along in its development, having access to 1.2 million dollars in funding. Construction has yet to begin for either project. On the current timelines, Eastern North Carolina residents should be able to enjoy the benefits of both projects within the next five years. For Public Radio East, I’m Lee Jenkins.